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Greenpeace calls for end to radioactive discharges

Greenpeace calls on the French Government to end illegal radioactive discharges

Auckland, April 28, 2000 - Greenpeace has called on the French government to immediately halt radioactive discharges from the giant La Hague nuclear reprocessing complex. The call came after a scientific sampling operation revealed that dangerous radioactive particles larger than the regulatory limit were being released into the sea off the Normandy coast.

“The particles are insoluble and will remain dangerous in the environment for hundreds of years. The fact that Cogema discharges large particles has significant implications for the potential health impacts of its discharges. It is conceivable that particles could be ingested by members of the public via seafood thus providing a relatively high radiation dose. Neither Cogema’s nor the regulatory authorities models take this effect into account,” said Greenpeace scientist Diederik Samsom.

The radioactive particles were discovered by Greenpeace divers who installed a scientific water sampler at the end of La Hague’s discharge pipe. The operation, which took place during the last week, was supervised by a legal witness (bailiff) and the analysis of the sample was under taken by an independent French Laboratory, ACRO. This latest find follows a similar operation in 1997 which also uncovered illegal highly radioactive particles in the plants discharge. (1)

The ACRO analyses shows particles with very high levels of activity including the radiotoxic elements cobalt 60 and Ruthenium 106 as well as the extremely radiotoxic Americium-241. The concentration of Co-60 in the particles (5600 Bq per gramme) is 560 times the limit for radioactive waste classification under European regulations.

“For four years the plant has being flouting its discharges authorisations by pumping highly radioactive particles into the sea. For four years the French courts and regulatory authorities have failed to take action and meet their primary duty to protect public health. This cannot be allowed to continue. In the interests of public health the French government must move immediately to end these discharges,” said Mike Townsley of Greenpeace International.

Cogema’s client countries – Australia, Germany, Japan, Belgium, the Netherlands and Switzerland -- must also take responsibility for the ongoing illegal discharges and demand an immediate end to the reprocessing of their spent nuclear fuel.

For Further information: Mike Townsley -- mobile +31 621 296 918; Femke Bartles – + 31 20 523 6294 or mobile +31 65 350 4729; Jean-Luc Theiry – mobile + 33 615 910 237; Jon Walter mobile ++31-653 504 731
Stills available from Greenpeace New Zealand, contact Sue Connor (09) 630 6317
Notes to Editors
(1) The results will be used in a court action by Greenpeace against the operator of the La Hague nuclear reprocessing plant, the government-owned company Cogema, for breaching its license. Cogema is currently seeking government approval for a plant expansion and an increase in radioactive discharges.

Greenpeace has been granted legal standing in the French courts, after appealing an earlier court ruling that it could not launch legal proceedings. A court hearing on the La Hague discharges was scheduled for May 2 this year but now has been delayed until sometime after the summer.


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